Dan Scherlis

Health Games, Info Security, User Experience, Linguistics

Metrics: U.S. online-game growth: visitors up 27%; minutes up 42%.

Posted by scherlis on January 28, 2009

Good news for the online-games biz, specifically the casual (mass-market) online games biz.  Discussion after these highlights from today’s comScore report (Dec. 2008 data):

  • Free online-game-site visitors grew 27% in 2008, to 86m.
  • Aggregate playing time jumped 42%
  • Online games consumed 4.9% of total Internet time (up from 3.7% in Dec. ’07 )
  • Online display-ad views grew 29% to 8.6b (in Nov ’08 )
  • The average player views 127 ads (unchanged year-over-year)
  • Ads per page view (“a measure of ‘ad clutter’“) dropped 17%, to 0.83

The top sites? Make your guess, then check the tables in the press release from comScore, and let me know if you were close. Suffice to say, I’m impressed by WildTangent’s good work. (Regardless of November’s major changes there.)

Why the growth? ComScore says that people have “turned to outlets such as gaming to take their minds off the economy“.  Also, they are “turning to free alternatives.”  A 14% drop in retail sales for PC games is cited as evidence.

I don’t buy it.  As Dean Takahashi notes in VentureBeat, console games grew 19%.  And, even if free-online (casual) and paid-retail games both reach broader demographics than last year, they nonetheless reach different demographics: I don’t see them as clear-cut substitutes.  Maybe this is less a down-turn driven shift in spending habits, than a continuation of casual-game growth, fostered by innovation, and by wider use of social content-sharing. (“I stumbled-upon a great game!”)  By contrasted, we didn’t see an exceptional year for retail-game  innovation.

Footnote for the algebraically obsessive: Yes, 127 avg impressions against 8.6b ad views implies only 68m visitors in Nov ’08. That would be unique visitors to ad-supported sites, versus the 86m online-game-site visitors overall.

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